Scammers duping victims into buying software to fix fake virus infection: Police

Scammers duping victims into buying software to fix fake virus infection: Police

Illustration of fake virus infection warning
Illustration of a fake virus infection warning (Illustration: Kenneth Choy)

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is warning people against falling for tech support scams after at least four reports were made this month.

SPF said in a news release on Tuesday (Jan 22) that victims were tricked into making payments for software to address a fake virus infection in their computers. In some cases, they were told to provide credit or debit card information where they subsequently discovered unauthorised charges.

More than S$28,000 was lost to such tech support scammers in 2018, police added.

READ: IMDA exploring tech to block automated scam calls and messages

Police have observed two variants of the latest scam. 

"In the first variant, victims will first see a pop-up message on their computer screens indicating that their computers have been infected with a virus or their passwords and information might have been leaked," said SPF.

"A toll-free telephone number will be provided for the victims to contact to resolve the issue. After making the call, the victims will be connected to operators who claim to be employees from technology companies such as Microsoft or Apple. 

"The victims will then be directed to a website and advised to download an application or enter commands to their computers. These steps gave the scammers’ remote access and control of the victims’ computers."

For the second variant, victims would receive unsolicited calls from people informing them that their bank account details have been hacked and money was being transferred out of their accounts.

"The victim will similarly be directed to download an application or software to allow the caller to gain access to the victim’s computer, so that he or she could help the victim," SPF said.

READ: At least 10 reports of scams involving takeover of WhatsApp accounts in January

The police added: "The scammers will inform the victims that they need to purchase 'anti-virus software' to fix their computers. 

"Victims will then be asked to transfer money or provide personal particulars (e.g. NRIC) and credit or debit card details to facilitate the purchase. The scammers will then make unauthorised transactions using the credit or debit card details. 

"In some cases, the victims allowed the scammers to access their email accounts by providing their passwords. This allowed the scammers to misuse their email accounts to commit other scams."

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Here's what you should do to guard against tech support scammers:

- Beware of unsolicited calls from people claiming your computer devices have been hacked or infected with viruses, even if they claim to be staff from the technology companies. 

- Note that scammers may use Caller ID spoofing technology to mask their actual phone number.

- Ignore the pop-up messages and do not call the toll-free number provided. You should open Task Manager, select the web browser, and click on the End Task button to close the pop-up message.

- Always obtain tech support through channels provided via the official websites (e.g. www.microsoft.com or www.apple.com). 

- Do not provide your name, identification number, passport details, contact details, bank account or credit card details to a stranger.

- You can also call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688.

Source: CNA/rw(my)

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